Sulzer Technical Review Issue 1 / 2016

Pumps manufacturing of the future

March 16, 2016 | Robert Laflamme

Sulzer builds pumps of the highest quality but also responds to the customers’ requirements for short lead times, close proximity, and competitive prices. Now, Sulzer is revolutionizing its pump manufacturing with a new setup of its factories.

Sulzer Pumps manufacture

The new structure of Sulzer’s global manufacturing network consists of three factory families:

  • Engineered pumps factories
  • Preengineered pumps factories
  • Configured/standard pumps factories

In addition, for vertical pumps, Sulzer will create a fourth factory family, which are dedicated production lines within different factories. The difference between these factory types lies in the business model and supply chain setup within Sulzer, not in the pumps themselves. In principle, one pump type could be used in all families. However, the largest pumps will typically be manufactured in the engineered family, the smallest in configured/standard family.

In the engineered segment, Sulzer tailors both the bare shaft pump and the package to the specific requirements of the customers. That way, the pump and package deliver superior performance, efficiency, and reliability in every application. Sulzer can adapt to and fulfill the customers’ most rigorous documentation, inspection, supply chain restriction, and traceability requirements.

The preengineered segment relies on well-proven configurations for the bare shaft pump. It adapts only predefined packages to the customers’ specifications. This allows Sulzer to deliver superior products for a broad range of applications with shorter lead times. It also provides scale benefits from sourcing more of the same components in an optimized supply chain.

The configured and standard segment allows Sulzer to benefit from series production to stock for components or pumps, minimizing lead time and costs, while still offering a large spectrum of options.

Ahlstar A range process pump (left) and ABS XFP submersible sewage pumps range (right)
The Ahlstar A range process pump is an example of a configured product (left). Standard products include, for example, the ABS XFP submersible sewage pumps range (right).

Benefits of the new setup

The harmonization within each family will allow Sulzer to shift easily between component manufacturing, bare shaft pump manufacturing, and package manufacturing among its factories on an order-by-order basis. It will also leverage Sulzer’s consolidated global supplier base. With this adjustment, Sulzer can accommodate the different customer requirements regarding lead time, proximity, materials, supplier restrictions, traceability, and price.

Furthermore, Sulzer can balance the load among its factories, stimulate help and exchange within each factory family, as well as roll out new improvements quickly around the world. Sulzer will thereby be able to utilize its manufacturing capacity optimally.

As a matter of course, all factories will contribute fully to the common Sulzer global quality standards.

Differences between the factories

The largest and highest-performance pumps are built in the engineered segment. They require suitable equipment for manufacturing and testing. Because of the high number of construction variants and the difference in time and effort required for each bare shaft pump and package, Sulzer uses a combination of one-piece-flow and job-shop production.

The preengineered segment is, in many respects, comparable to automotive production, and it also uses many elements found there, e.g., full one-piece-flow, tact, just-in-time production. In the pump factories, the throughput times have dropped with new assembly processes. Instead of a cell production where one coworker mounts a complete pump, now, a flow production line exists. There the pump moves continuously through the factory and undergoes a just-in-time logistical process.

Layout of one of Sulzer'™s pumps factories
The layout of one of Sulzer’s pumps factories shows how pumps for the preengineered segment are assembled in a new flow production line. This process has reduced the throughput time by up to 50%.

The configured/standard segment takes this even further to optimize for larger series sizes, e.g., by automating selected process steps.

With the integrated management of its global network, Sulzer is able to achieve shorter and stable lead times, which benefit all its customers.

The increased cost competitiveness will give more customers the possibility to use Sulzer quality products, and Sulzer can offer alternatives for shorter lead times, manufacturing proximity, and a G7 supply chain.

Looking ahead

Sulzer’s employees are improving the factories every day and are continuously shaping the future of pump manufacturing. An important step will be to take all the smart ideas, improvements, and innovations that have been created in different places and roll them out globally in the factory families. This includes common planning and costing processes. This streamlining will bring uniformity to the factory appearance and processes.

Furthermore, Sulzer will drive digitalization to further enhance its processes and productivity, e.g., bringing tablet technology to the shop floor, extending the 3D-model-to-machine CAM workflows, using new inspection technologies, introducing additive manufacturing techniques, and improving planning and document management tools—as just a few examples.

And finally, based on current scouting activities, Sulzer will provide further manufacturing technology innovations, material capabilities, and automation. With these steps, Sulzer is striving for industry leadership in all differentiating core processes and in order execution.

Sulzer Technical Review


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